July 24, 2017 / 2:14 PM / 5 months ago

France's Macron faces grassroots court challenge over party rules

PARIS (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron faced the first grassroots revolt from within his own camp on Monday when hundreds of activists asked a court to halt voting on new rules for the political party that helped him win power in May.

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron waves from his car on the Champs Elysees avenue after the handover ceremony in Paris, France, May 14, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo

The challenge came on the heels of a poll showing a slump in the 39-year-old president’s approval rating after a series of politically testing events, including a budget row that prompted the head of the army to quit.

Members of Macron’s Republic on the Move party (LREM), which espouses a break with old ways of doing politics, are taking part in an electronic vote on new party statutes that is due to end on July 31.

The activists involved in the legal challenge say they number about 1,200, a fraction of the LREM’s total membership of more than 375,000, but they reveal a degree of discontent in the ranks with Macron’s forceful style of leadership..

The group says the disputed statutes would limit decision-making and future internal ballots to the LREM’s upper echelons.

“This ‘lockout’ exposes a lack of trust in party members and looks at odds with LREM (party) values,” they said.

“The lack of internal democracy is even more distasteful due to the fact that it’s all been done in a rush in the middle of the summer without proper consultation of activists.”

A party spokeswoman brushed off the accusations, saying LREM was giving a bigger role to grassroots members in its structures than other French parties and had further increased that power after consulting members earlier this month.

A ruling is expected this week on the court challenge after a hearing on Monday.

Macron, who swept to power on promises of non-partisan rule and an end to traditional Left-versus-Right politics, has had a tough month, marked by a public row over military spending cuts with top armed forces chief General Pierre de Villiers that led to de Villiers’ resignation.

An Ifop poll released on Sunday showed Macron’s approval rating falling 10 percentage points to 54 percent.

Billed as the biggest drop for a newly elected president since Jacques Chirac in 1995, it echoed a broadly similar result in a recent BVA poll.

Reporting by Brian Love; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Gareth Jones

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